A Natural Woman

Franklin’s single was released in September of 1967.

Every year, in early December, Kennedy Center Honors are awarded to five performing artists, or groups, in acknowledgment of their lifetime contributions to American culture.  It’s a weekend-long affair that includes a State Department dinner, a reception at the White House, and a gala performance at the Kennedy Center.  That performance is recorded and broadcast on TV during the fallow period between Christmas and New Years.  As a fan of the performing arts, I watch it every year; as is the case with so much in life, some shows are memorable and some aren’t.

In 2015, the honorees were Rita Moreno, George Lucas, Cecily Tyson, Seiji Ozawa, and Carole King.  King, one of the great singer-songwriters, was the draw for me.  Her tribute was the last one of the evening, and included performances by Janelle Monae, James Taylor, Sara Bareilles, and a couple of cast members from the Broadway musical about King, Beautiful.  And then something really marvelous happened.  Aretha Franklin–73 years old at the time–emerged from the shadows wearing a floor-length fur and holding a sparkly clutch, sat down at the piano, and proceeded to blow the roof off the joint with a performance of one of her signature hits, which was written by King and her late ex-husband, Gerry Goffin: “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman.”

There are so many emotions at play here.  There’s the simple love of the song itself (which, like so many people, I discovered on King’s classic album, Tapestry), and all of the memories that have accrued to it over the years.  There’s the realization that Franklin, forty-eight years after first recording the song, remains a force to be reckoned with.  There’s tremendous gratitude for what she and King have given us over the course of their careers.  And there’s the ecstatic reaction of the audience, above all of King herself, who looks, as David Remnick wrote in The New Yorker, like she “is about to fall over the rail.”  Even President Obama was not immune.  King later said, “The cool cat wept!  I loved that.”  And Franklin called it “one of the three or four greatest nights of my life.”

Maybe you’ve already seen this, either the night it aired on CBS, or when it did that proverbial viral thing afterward.  If not, here it is.  Maybe you’ll agree with Remnick’s assessment: “In under five minutes, your life will improve by a minimum of forty-seven per cent.”

That’s certainly true for me.  It’s one of the antidotes I keep close at hand in this era of DJT.

Lookin’ out on the morning rain
I used to feel uninspired
And when I knew I had to face another day
Lord, it made me feel so tired

Before the day I met you, life was so unkind
But your love was the key to my peace of mind

‘Cause you make me feel
You make me feel
You make me feel like
A natural woman

When my soul was in the lost-and-found
You came along to claim it
I didn’t know just what was wrong with me
Till your kiss helped me name it

Now I’m no longer doubtful of what I’m living for
‘Cause if I make you happy I don’t need to do more

You make me feel
You make me feel
You make me feel like
A natural woman

Oh, baby, what you’ve done to me
You make me feel so good inside
And I just want to be close to you
You make me feel so alive

You make me feel
You make me feel
You make me feel like
A natural woman

Here’s King doing a version of her own composition:


  • I saw that show too and Aretha absolutely stole the show. Her performance was amazing. I wonder what the Kennedy Center Honors will be like next December?

    Liked by 1 person

    • She’s certainly set the bar for all future musical performances at the Honors gala. The 2016 honorees didn’t generate as much emotion (for me, anyway): Martha Argerich, Mavis Staples, Al Pacino, the Eagles, and James Taylor). I can’t even begin to imagine DJT presiding at the end of this year…God forbid other individuals and their talents be the focus of attention.

      Thanks so much for stopping by, Ray!


  • I remember watching this on TV and being overwhelmed by the majesty and beauty of it all. Thanks for making me smile

    Liked by 1 person

  • Such an amazing clip! I loved Carole King’s reaction. I don’t think she could have been more amazed and honored by a performance. I also loved seeing the other reactions in the audience, including women invariably singing along with the main lyric — but the men never do! 😉

    Now I’m going to watch Carole King’s clip. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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